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Police say they don't know if she was enticed, detained or concealed
By Daymond Steer
CONWAY – CONWAY – Police are looking for the man who last fall apparently drove away with 14-year-old Abby Hernandez, but they say they don’t know if she was taken against her will.
The teen returned Sunday after being missing for about nine months. Law enforcement asks the public to remain vigilant because the investigation is going.
During the time she was missing, Abby Hernandez, now 15, sent one letter to her mother at the end of October but had not been heard from again until Sunday when she reappeared. The mystery of what happened has generated international media attention.
Police say according to information from Abby, the man depicted in the sketch "drove her away" on Oct. 9 between 2:20 and 3 p.m. on Oct. 9. At the time, the man was driving a navy blue pick-up truck on North South Road in Conway, north of the rotary. Abby described the man as having darkish skin, dark brown eyes, black stubble facial hair, and a large build, who was slightly overweight and slightly taller than she was (5'4").
"While the investigation remains on-going, law enforcement authorities are still attempting to ascertain and confirm information as to whether this man or any others who may have been involved with Abigail's disappearance took her against her will, enticed her away, detained her or concealed her whereabouts for the last nine months," read a statement from investigators on Thursday afternoon.
Law enforcement is also asking if anyone saw a woman (Abby) in black pants and a multicolored sweatshirt walking on the North-South Road late Sunday night. Abby wore the same clothes the day she vanished.
Conway Police Chief Ed Wagner declined to discuss whether the man in sketch is danger to the public, but he remind people to remain vigilant. "All we're saying right now is in the press release," he said.
Investigators stress Abby was only 14 at the time she disappeared and that she did not have the means to disappear or provide herself with food and shelter.
"It is a felony for any person to take, (or cause to) entice away, detain or conceal any child under the age of 18 who is unrelated by blood," said the statement. "Should the investigation reveal evidence that a crime was committed, in regard to any aspect of this investigation, then all appropriate charges will be brought."
Attorney General Foster said, "We are all pleased Abigail was returned safely to her family. Law enforcement officers must now obtain satisfactory answers to the questions surrounding the facts and circumstances of Abigail's disappearance and nine month absence. The individual or individuals who were involved with her disappearance and absence will now have to face the consequences of any unlawful actions. Finding these answers and assuring the perpetrator is brought to justice will help ensure a similar act is not committed against another child."
On Wednesday, Associate New Hampshire Attorney General Jane Young said authorities are still looking for Abby Hernandez's iPhone and necklace.
In December, authorities have asked the public for help searching for Hernandez's silver necklace. The necklace that had a pendent with a blue heart. Abby had a white iphone 5 with a pink and grey Otterbox style case.
Her phone last made contact with the cellular network on the West side of Cranmore Mountain at 3:07 p.m. the day she vanished.
Earlier in the day, Police Chief Ed Wagner estimated the cost of the investigation borne by his agency was about $20,000 in 2013, but stressed the results were worth it. Wagner couldn't guess what the investigation cost overall. There were a number of other agencies involved like the state police and FBI.
"I really have no idea how much the cost was," said Wagner. "I'm going to go back in the memory bank and (it was) probably somewhere around there. I want to make it very clear that I'm not grumbling about it."
Wagner said they are putting in a lot of hours trying to get to the bottom of the mystery. They are still working on it and there is still over time involved in the investigation. The detectives work the case from Sun up till midnight.
"We're more than happy to do it," said Wagner. "We just want to find out in the end what happened. We're certainly glad she came home safe."
Wagner said if there were a criminal defendant in this case, that person would not be asked to pay restitution since the police are paid to solve cases anyway.
"It's what we do," said Wagner. "It's our job."
Wagner said police cannot predict cases like the Krista Dittmeyer murder, Abby's disappearance or the Army Barracks triple murder before they happen. So, people need to be aware of what's going on around them.
"We need to be ever vigilant of our surroundings," said Wagner adding people should report anything suspicious.
Meanwhile, close friends of the Hernandez family, Paul Kirsch and Amanda Smith, put out a statement on the Bring Abby Home Facebook page saying the Hernandez family is continuing to "recover and rest." They also appealed to the public to be patient as they wait for more information to become available.
"Many people have been requesting specific answers and details as to exactly what happened to Abby," wrote Smith and Kirsch. "While we appreciate the desire for answers, this is still very much an ongoing law enforcement investigation and no details can be released that could jeopardize the integrity of their work."
The statement says they have taken direction from law enforcement about how to conduct their efforts to help the family.
"Abby being reunited with her family on Sunday is a testament to us that this process has worked and (we) continue to believe they are acting in Abby's best interests," wrote Smith and Kirsch. "As we receive more information from them, we will share it as soon as we can."
Jonathan Goodwin, of Gemini Signs, said on Thursday he'd be removing the Abby sign he erected on Route 16 in Albany.
Anyone with information about Abby's walk along the North-South Road is encouraged to call Conway Police at 356-5715 or State Police at 271-3636.
MOULTONBOROUGH – The mood was unmistakably somber as a Loon Preservation Committee biologist collected the third documented lead-poisoned loon from New Hampshire waters this year, this one discovered on July 18 on Lake Winnipesaukee.
The loon was collected near the Lanes End Marina in Melvin Village after it beached itself. It was transported to Meadow Pond Animal Hospital in Moultonborough for a blood test and x-rays. Radiographs showed a lead-headed fishing jig (a lead weight molded around a hook), and blood lead levels were at toxic levels, so the loon was immediately euthanized.
The link between loon deaths and lead poisoning first emerged in the 1980s, when the discovery was made that loons were ingesting lead fishing tackle in the form of sinkers and jigs. Necropsies performed by the Tufts University School of Veterinary Medicine on dead adult common loons in New Hampshire revealed that 49 percent had the remains of lead sinkers and jigs in their gizzards and had died from lead poisoning. A loon will die from lead poisoning approximately two to four weeks after ingesting lead tackle.
"It seems likely that loons are eating fish that have tackle in or on them. As the acidic juices in the bird's gizzard break down the food, the lead is also broken down and gets into the bloodstream of the bird," said Emily Preston, a wildlife biologist with the N.H. Fish and Game Department. "The good news is that using alternatives to lead tackle should provide immediate relief to the loon population."
Necropsies of dead adult loons show that lead tackle accounts for more deaths than every other human factor combined. The loss of so many adults from this preventable cause of mortality has inhibited the recovery of loons in New Hampshire, according to the LPC.
"Because loons do not breed until 6-7 years of age and have low reproductive success, it is important that adult loons survive for many years to produce surviving young," said Harry Vogel, Senior Biologist and Executive Director at LPC. "The loss of an adult loon may also result in the loss of that loon's nest or chick, further negatively impacting the population."
To help address this problem, Fish and Game convened a Lead and Loon Working Group in 2013. The idea was to provide a forum for diverse partners to work toward the common goal of motivating all anglers to change to lead-free tackle. Organizations currently participating include Fish and Game, The Loon Preservation Committee, N.H. Lakes Association, N.H. Fish and Game Commission, Squam Lakes Natural Science Center, N.H. Department of Environmental Services, N.H. Lakes Management Council, N.H. Audubon and US Fish and Wildlife Service. All are contributing to outreach efforts across the state.
"Lead is a known factor that we have the ability to address. It is something we can choose to change," said Laura Ryder, Education Programs Supervisor at Fish and Game. With that in mind, the Lead and Loon Working Group is reaching out to anglers from all walks of life and providing information to help them choose alternatives to lead fishing tackle.
Laws are being strengthened to encourage the switch. New Hampshire was the first state in the nation to restrict the sale and use of small lead fishing tackle to protect loons. In 2013, Governor Hassan signed a bill (SB 89) that increases protection for loons from lead fishing tackle by banning the sale and freshwater use of lead fishing sinkers and jigs (lead-weighted hooks) weighing one ounce or less. This bill will be implemented in June of 2016, but N.H. Fish and Game and The Loon Preservation Committee are urging everyone to remove lead tackle from their tackle boxes now. Safe alternatives to lead tackle, made of steel, tungsten, tin, bismuth, and many other materials, are effective and readily available. (See a list of suppliers on the LPC website, http://www.loon.org).
As word gets out, many anglers are changing their tackle over and choosing to fish lead free. "Switching to lead-alternative tackle is the right thing to do, not just for the common loon recovery, but also for any other wildlife with similar habits that may also be vulnerable to ingesting lead sinkers and jigs," said Jason Smith, Chief of Inland Fisheries at the Fish and Game Department. "We always have choices, and this choice can help the common loon to make a more solid recovery."
The New Hampshire Fish and Game Department (http://www.wildnh.com) works in partnership with the public to conserve, manage and protect the state's fish, wildlife and marine resources and their habitats; inform and educate the public about these resources; and provide the public with opportunities to use and appreciate these resources.
The Loon Preservation Committee (http://www.loon.org) monitors loons throughout the state as part of its mission to restore and maintain a healthy population of loons in New Hampshire; to monitor the health and productivity of loon populations as sentinels of environmental quality; and to promote a greater understanding of loons and the natural world.
Holderman, also a math teach, takes job in South Carolina
By Lloyd Jones
CONWAY — Calling it a "gut wrenching decision," Mike Holderman met with the Kennett High football team early Thursday morning to inform them he his taking a position at East Chapel Hill High School in North Carolina.
Holderman, who has been the head coach at Kennett for the past three years, had just been hired earlier this month as a math teacher at Kennett High School.
Superintendent Carl Nelson acted quickly recommending defensive coordinator Vaughan Beckwith as the interim head coach for this season. The district will post the job opening for a math teacher Friday.
"Mike has taken a job closer to his his family," Nelson said by phone Thursday. "We found out late Wednesday night that he was leaving. We wish him and his family well. ...I'll be asking the Conway School Board to appoint Coach Beckwith as the interim head coach.
"It's very late in the season to start a search for a head coach," he added. "It's a complicated sport, you don't just put someone in that position. Coach Beckwith will bring continuity to the team, that's why we acted so quickly. We want to make sure the kids have the best opportunity to move forward."
Holderman was Kennett's fourth head coach during a five-year span. Following the death of longtime coach Gary Millen, Drew Inzer ran the program for two years followed by Ken Sciacca, who led the Eagles to a playoff berth and then recommended Holderman, who was in his first year as an assistant for the Eagles in 2009, for the top spot. He was a unanimous choice of the Conway School Board in 2010 and quickly stamped his mark on his team playing an uptempo offensive attacking brand of football.
Kennett had three straight 5-4 seasons under Holderman and reached the Division III playoffs last fall. The Eagles return a ton of talent this season and are widely considered one of the leading contenders this fall.
Holderman, who will coach football and teach match at East Chapel Hill, called Thursday's meeting with his team one of the toughest moments of his life.
"I can't even put it into words," he said by phone. "These are my guys I spend more time with these kids than my family. Heck, they are family to me. ...A lot of tears were shed — I haven't cried this much in a long time. If this was solely about football I'd be staying.
"East Chapel Hill is the second best school district in North Carolina," Holderman continued. "It's a great opportunity for my family for us to be close to my family. Jessica (his wife and a 1996 Kennett High graduate) is on board and it's an opportunity for me to better provide for her and our two girls."
Since opening in 1996, East Chapel Hill has never finished with a winning season in football. There were 49 boys on the Wildcats roster last season.
Holderman grew up in Pennsylvania where he played high school and college football and began his coaching career. In Pennsylvania, Holderman earned All-Conference honors as a tight end at Delaware Valley College in 1998. From 2000-2004, he was the co-offensive coordinator/offensive assistant at Delaware Valley College, where he helped the team produce the fifth greatest one-year turnaround in Division III history going from 2-8 in 2002 to 9-2 in 2003. Prior to coming to Kennett, Holderman was the assistant head coach/offensive coordinator at Boyertown Area Senior High School in Boyertown, Pa.
Holderman said East Chapel begins its preseason on Aug. 1. Kennett starts Aug. 13.
"I would have liked a lot more wins here," Holderman said, reflecting on his three years at the helm. "I do feel that we've brought the program to the 21st century with all of the equipment and technology. Our off-season training program is second to none.
"...These guys are primed to make a run this year," he continued. "Again, if it was just about football you couldn't drag me away. I'll be keeping track of these guys, they're still my guys. And, I can't say enough about the support I've received from the community. I want to say thank you from the bottom of my heart."
Holderman is pleased Beckwith will serve as interim head coach.
"I'm 100 percent confident in Vaughan taking over in an interim basis," he said. "He's been with me since the beginning and has done everything we've done. If there was ever a time for a smooth transition it's now with this senior class and bunch of juniors who know the ropes. I fully expect these guys to take the reins and run with it. I think it's going to be a special season for Kennett football.
"(Laughing) I'm going to be a Wildcat now," he said. "I told the guys if (East Chapel Hill) had been named the Bobcats (Kennett's rival the Plymouth Bobcats) I wouldn't have taken it. Kennett and these players are always going to have a special place in heart."
To avoid ticket, Fryeburg man tries to avoid police
FRYEBURG – A 21-year-old Fryeburg resident is facing charges after triggering a police chase Wednesday night that started because he didn't want to get a stop sign violation, said the acting chief.
Police say Marcus Buzzell failed to heed a stop sign and spun the tires of his GMC pickup in front of an officer at around 9:30 p.m. Buzzell then allegedly "accelerated at criminal speeds north on Route 5."
An officer attempted to catch up to the truck and found that it had "spun out" and was stuck in a ditch at the intersection of Corn Shop Road and Route 5. Buzzell attempted to get the truck out of the ditch and while doing so, his truck allegedly struck the front end of the cruiser and allegedly caused $2,400 worth of damage to the cruiser.
Buzzell got his truck out of the ditch and continued driving on Corn Shop Road and then on to a field access road where he left the truck and allegedly fled on foot down the muddy access road.
A State Police K9 unit as well as additional Fryeburg officers, state troopers, and Oxford County deputies assisted on the call. The K9 track went for 3.75 miles towards the direction of Buzzell’s residence on West Fryeburg Road. Shortly after the track ended Buzzell turned himself in at the Fryeburg Police Department.
“Buzzell is cooperating with investigators," said acting police chief Joshua Potvin. "He stated that he ran because he didn’t want to get another ticket and thought he could get away.”
Buzzell has been charged with aggravated criminal mischief, a class C felony; refusing to stop for a law enforcement officer, a class E Misdemeanor; criminal speed, a class E misdemeanor; driving to endanger, a class E misdemeanor and "various other traffic related infractions," said Potvin.
Buzzell is being held at Oxford County Jail, said Potvin.
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